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Inspirational Nugget: Create Learning Experiences

One of the most common requests that Instructional Designers and eLearning Professionals receive is to convert stand-up training into online training. Coordinating stand-up training for any organization can be time-consuming and costly, so it makes sense to move the content online so that your audience can view it at their convenience. We love providing this service.

When you need to convert content quickly, you may have to opt for a simple online format that keeps the content basically the same. It’s not the most engaging way to deliver training, but sometimes in the interest of time this is all you can do.

However, when you have plenty of time and ample resources, you may have the opportunity to really create immersive and effective training. Creating a training course from scratch can be intimidating, so in this type of situation I like to turn to my “Inspirational Nuggets” to jumpstart my design process.

Create Learning Experiences

To me, a “learning experience” is a moment or element in the training that connects the user with the content in a meaningful and impactful way. It’s some aspect of your course that provides a practical encounter with the content, which basically means you’ve given the user the most realistic context for the content.

Your entire training course doesn’t have to be one giant experience. It can be several small moments within your entire course. Start by organizing your content into chunks that can easily be linked back to your goals or objectives, and then build the experience around that objective. Whenever possible, include an activity that most closely matches what you want your user to be able to do.

Experience vs Fun Game

With the latest versions of many eLearning authoring tools, cool interactions and games are really easy to build. These activities certainly break up the monotony of an eLearning course, but they aren’t always the best option. If you’re creating training on First Aid, playing three full rounds of a Jeopardy-style game won’t create a practical experience for your users. A better “learning experience” could involve having users number the steps required for treating various injuries.

Creating interactive games and elements is one of the coolest parts of being an Instructional Designer, but we also have the responsibility to build the most effective and applicable experience for our audience. Make it fun, but make it a true learning experience.

Learning Experience Ideas

Software training can be built as one big learning experience, if you create a simulation so the user can interact with the “system” much like they would in the real system. With most eLearning authoring tools available today, you can replicate the look of a user hovering over a link or button to make the simulation look and feel like it would in ‘real life’. You can even add branches to your content that match the actual software’s path.

You can also use branching for soft skills training. A “Choose Your Own Adventure” branched scenario can create the perfect learning experience for when your users need to learn the consequences of their actions. This type of experience requires considerable planning and mapping of your branches in order to build enough variety into the scenario. As for visuals for this type of activity, you can use photos, cartoon characters, or even video of real actors. Your assessment of the audience will determine what type of characters will create the most relatable experience for your audience.

When trying to build learning experiences, always start with your audience. What is it they need to be able to do with the content you’re presenting? What’s the best way for them to apply what they just learned?

 

Here are a few learning experiences I’ve been trying to develop for some current projects.

Objective: Student organization officers must follow event advertising policies.

Learning Experience: After defining the policies and Dos and Don’ts of advertising for events on campus, display an image that contains multiple examples of the Dos and Don’ts of advertising for events, with hotspots over each example. Users must identify the approved methods. Even if the visuals are not actual campus images, users will be able to transfer the examples to their environment.

 

Objective: Campus event applications must be submitted 30 days in advance of the event and approved by Student Life.

Learning Experience: Provide the user with all of the details and dates of a future event, which they must enter into a sample form. Using a real-life form for practice will help ensure that the user will remember the steps when submitting a form in the future.

 

Objective: Employees are expected to apply new business principles to their team in order to increase efficiency and improve accuracy.

Learning Experience: Explain the new principle in plain terms, then describe a “case study” where those same principles were adopted by one of the teams within the organization. After talking about the principle in a familiar context, give users a “homework assignment” where they work with their supervisor on applying the same principle to their own area. The group work aspect extends the learning experience beyond the eLearning course.

How do you go about creating “learning experiences” for your training courses? Do you have any great examples you’d like to share? Tell us about your learning experiences in the comments below.

After receiving a Master’s Degree from NAU in Literacy, Technology, and Professional Writing, Sarah returned to her home town of Omaha, Nebraska where she gathered almost 10 years of experience in Instructional Design. Sarah loves utilizing technology to create training, whether to teach people how to use a computer system, improve their sales numbers, or incorporate a new process into their daily routine. Her background in English and Technical Writing helps keep her focused on writing and editing to provide clear and concise content for training. When the opportunity opened up with the Learning & Professional Development team, Sarah and her family (which consists of a bicycle-obsessed husband, two energetic daughters, and an annoying German Shepherd) jumped at the chance to move back to Flagstaff where they can ride bikes, hike, camp, ride bikes some more, and generally enjoy the outdoors without humidity or mosquitoes.

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